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[Video Game Review] Middle-earth: Shadow of Mordor (2014)

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Game Summary: You are Talion, a Ranger of the Black Gate, keeping watch over Mordor which has remained undisturbed for ages. In the blink of an eye, everything is taken from you - your friends, your family, and even your own life. Resurrected by a vengeful spirit, you must now embark on a relentless vendetta against those who have wronged you. Fight through Mordor and uncover the truth of the spirit that compels you, discover the origins of the Rings of Power, build your legend and ultimately confront the evil of Sauron in this new chronicle in Middle-earth.

Developers: Monolith Productions, Behaviour Interactive

Publisher: Warner Bros. Interactive Entertainment

Platforms: Microsoft Windows, Playstation 3, Playstation 4, Xbox 360, Xbox One

Review: by Anthony

From the first trailer shown at the Electronic Entertainment Expo (E3) 2014,  I was immediately intrigued and had high hopes for Middle-Earth: Shadow of Mordor.

I’d consider myself a casual Lord of the Rings fan.  Casual in that I’ve seen the movies and I like them, but I haven’t read the novels or even watched the director’s cut.  Even without being a huge LotR fan, I was more than able to follow along to the plot and I even recognized a few characters and locations mentioned.  Being ever so slightly familiar with the world that Shadow of Mordor is set in started me on my path of loving this game.

What I Liked:

Shadow of Mordor’s gameplay was clearly influenced by games like the Assassins’ Creed franchise and the Batman: Arkham franchise, but rather than just being a bland mix of those two games, there’s this new “Nemesis System” that takes the game to a completely different level.

The Nemesis System remembers the interactions you (Talion) have with various Uruk Captains and War Chiefs as you play the game and it’s hilarious and frustrating all at the same time.  My first experiences with Nemesis System went as follows:  I happened upon a group of Uruks that had a Captain in their midst. As I engaged them in battle, the Captain delivered his lame trash talk and I defeated him and thought nothing of it.  Maybe like an hour later of continued gameplay, I happened upon that same Captain again with new scars and super ugly and he remembered me giving him said scars and he talked even more trash.  Now, due to my play style, I was fresh from an earlier battle and hadn’t taken the time to regain all my health, so I fell to this Captain in battle and watched in disgust as his rank went up and he was promoted amongst the other Uruks.  Obviously, the first thing I had to do upon re-spawning was to track down this guy so he could meet my blade.

Wash, rinse, and repeat this all throughout the game. During main missions, side missions, hunting, or just gathering herbs to complete a challenge, I would encounter some Uruk I had killed earlier and they had not forgotten nor given up on their grudge and it was fantastic each and every time.

Aside from the awesome “Nemesis System”, Shadow of Mordor borrowed heavily from both Assassin’s Creed and Batman: Arkham from climbing and activating towers to unlocking icons on your map to the entire combat system and finishing down opponents.  Now those games aren’t bad games to borrow from–both are extremely popular and successful and the gameplay features that were borrowed are arguably some of the best of those games.

What I Didn’t Like:

The things I didn’t like about Shadow of Mordor were things that eased and went away altogether the more I played the game.

The learning curve for combat went beyond the basic attack and counter.  Sure, you can fight your way through a small group of Uruk with those initial skills, but in order to walk into a stronghold with the alarm blaring and walk out alive, you’re going to need a bunch of upgrades.

While that sounds like a “no duh, Sherlock” moment, because of the addictive quality of the side missions and how easy it is to get side tracked, next thing you know, you’re fighting seven Uruks (one of which is a Captain) and you end up dying from an archer or spear thrower just outside of the combat circle.

You can purchase this game from Amazon Here:

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